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Rare bird alert: For first time ever, cinnamon teal spotted in Will County

 A cinnamon teal, with its brown body, is seen in the middle surrounded by blue-winged teals.
A cinnamon teal (center) has been spotted in Will County. (Photo courtesy of Kara Senders Morales)

During spring and fall migration each year, we can get some rarely-seen birds in the area and, in this case, it's an extremely rare bird that's been spotted in Crete over the past few days.

A male cinnamon teal has been hanging out with blue-winged teals and Kara Senders Morales posted photos to our Will County Wildlife group on Facebook. We can tell this is a male based on its plumage; females have a coarsely marked brown body while the males have the cinnamon-colored body.

Based on ebird maps, this is the first time one of these birds has ever been reported in Will County, making it a truly rare sighting. They have been spotted before in the Chicago area, with a sighting in Grundy County in 2018 and DuPage County in 1998.

These birds live and migrate within the western half of the United States, as well as Mexico and South America. Cinnamon teals are a fairly unusual species because it has separate breeding populations in North America and South America, according to the Cornell Lab of Ornithology.

"I did hear about this and was able to get out and see it," said Bob Bryerton, a program coordinator at Plum Creek Nature Center in Crete Township. "It was a life bird for me. I had never seen one before, because I have not done a lot of traveling out west, so it was great to be able to find one in Illinois."

Bryerton said he's wondering how this bird — which usually hangs out in wetlands in the western half of the country — ended up here and if it will eventually get back on track as it continues its migration. 

In the past, we've seen rare birds in the area, such as a great kiskadee, painted bunting, red-throated loon, and black-legged kittiwake, to name a few. 

Birds can make their way far outside of their range for a variety of reasons. They can be thrown off course by weather, or may be first-year birds that have migrated in the wrong direction. 

So if you're out and about in the coming weeks, whether it's in a forest preserve or anywhere else, keep your eyes peeled because you never know what surprises you may find. 

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